Australians on the Western Front: Grateful town is paying tribute

CHAMPION: Olympian Cecil Healy died in battle. Picture: AWM P04366.007

CHAMPION: Olympian Cecil Healy died in battle. Picture: AWM P04366.007

Throughout 2018, the French town of Péronne is celebrating the Year of Australia.

Under banners urging N’oublions jamais l’Australie (Do not forget Australia), a program of activities pays tribute to the town’s liberation by Australian soldiers 100 years ago.

On September 1, a 15km remembrance walk from Péronne to the grave of Australian Olympian Cecil Healy will precede the opening of an exhibition “When a champion becomes a soldier” at nearby Assevillers Town Hall.

The next day a ceremony will take place at the 2nd Australian Division Memorial at Mont-Saint Quentin.

Darlinghurst-born Cecil Healy, a gold and silver medallist at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, enlisted in 1915 aged 33. After serving in the Army Service Corps in Egypt and France, he completed officer training and was commissioned in the 19th Battalion in 1918.

In 2018 Péronne is celebrating its liberation by Australians with a program Do Not Forget Australia. Picture: Michael Grealy

In 2018 Péronne is celebrating its liberation by Australians with a program Do Not Forget Australia. Picture: Michael Grealy

Australia’s official historian Charles Bean recorded that Australians of the 2nd Division were descending towards the Somme River, west of Péronne, on August 29, 1918, when “German batteries plastered the slope with shell bursts.

“Pointing out (a machine-gun) after being wounded by it, Lieut. Cecil Healy was hit again and killed.”